OB-GYN NBME Shelf Examination Resources

By Haley Masterson

The difficulty of the OB-GYN shelf exam lies in the fact that it contains the most “new” material out of any shelf – after all, the Step 1 examination doesn’t so much as mention pre-eclampsia, and the pre-clinical curriculum at nearly every school is limited in scope to hormones and gynecologic cancers.   The process of childbirth itself isn’t usually featured prominently on the pre-clinical syllabus – so while studying for the shelf exam, odds are that you’ll be learning the vast majority of this specialty for the first time. 

Here are the resources I used to learn the material:

Case Files:  Obstetrics & Gynecology:  This is nearly universally regarded as the best the Case Files series has to offer.  Unlike some of the others (Neurology, for example), this book repeats important facts in many different cases, so by the time you finish it, you’ll have memorized important algorithms and definitions without hardly even trying.  It also contains about 80-90% of the material that the shelf tests – so it’s difficult for me to recommend not using it. 

Blueprints: Obstetrics & Gynecology:  I wish I’d picked up this book earlier in my clerkship.  It’s much more concise and clear than any other resource I used, and it manages to cover nearly all of the testable material in a relatively easy-to-read format.  The only downsides are that, like all Blueprints books, it doesn’t include practice questions, and despite being relatively easy-to-read, it’s still difficult to plow through if you dislike textbooks. 

Case Files:  Gynecologic Surgery: As you can probably guess from the title, this book was overkill.  I picked it up because I loved the regular Case Files – OB/GYN book, and it was written by the same author – but it’s written at a resident level, and doesn’t contain much material that the NBME would consider testable. 

That said, I found that reading through these case examples was a great way to prepare the night before a day in the Gyn OR, even if they weren’t of much use in preparing for the shelf. 

ACOG:  Uwise Practice Questions:  If you don’t subscribe to a Step 2 Qbank, this is probably the best question source for this examination – it covers nearly all of the relevant material (to be fair, the NBME couldn’t ensure a perfect bell curve if they didn’t throw in some random questions on each shelf) and is vetted by the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists themselves.  These questions cover everything, and as annoying as it is to go through all of them module-by-module, it’s worth the time it takes. (Access to this resource requires a password that will be provided by your medical school.)

In the end, the challenge of this examination lies in learning the material, and Blueprints and Case Files are arguably the winning combination for that, depending on the quality of the teaching you’re getting on the wards. 

Good luck!

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